Friday, June 30, 2006

God Talk and Freudian Slips

Job 40:6-9 (New Living Translation)

“Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind:
“Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Are you going to discredit my justice and condemn me so you can say you are right? Are you as strong as God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?”

I found the lead to a June 30th E.J. Dionne op-ed quite amusing. “Many Democrats discovered God in the 2004 exit polls,” it said.

Interesting. Sometimes a Freudian slip can tell you a lot about a person or a political party.

It reminded me of a banquet I once attended when I was going to college back in the seventies. The highlight of the evening was a homily given by “the alumnus of the year.” To be honest, the subject of his discourse has escaped me after all these years, but I do remember his fateful slip of the tongue. About half way through his talk a telephone, which was suspended from a column about ten feet to his left, rang. At about the third ring he said, to everyone’s great amusement, “If that’s the Lord, will you please tell Him that I’m going to be busy for the next twenty minutes or so. Tell Him I’ll get back to Him.” At first blush his little slip seemed amusing. But, it was also quite telling. The “alumnus of the year,” filled to overflowing with an over-inflated sense of his own importance, was, in a way, telling the Almighty to take a hike. “I’m busy and I don’t want you interfering with my importance. The people gathered here came to see me, not You!”

I think the Democrats and some of their supporters have a real problem. They believe they’ve “discovered” God. As soon as I read Dionne’s words the same thing occurred to me as it did when I heard the alumnus of the year. Like Columbus who discovered America and Jonas Salk who discovered a cure for polio, the Democratic Party has discovered God. I’m impressed.

I wonder where they found him. Did they find Him in near some bulrushes near the Tidal Basin? Had someone hidden Him near the Jefferson Memorial? Did they discover Him doing stand-up at a Georgetown comedy club?

I hope you’ll forgive me, but I just couldn’t resist. When someone leads with their chin like that it’s just too tempting a target.

But it does raise a serious point. Are Democrats and their supporters really serious about all this God talk?

One of the few Democrats who seems to be taking faith seriously is Barack Obama. As reported by national media, he recently chastised his fellow Democrats for:

“Failing to "acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people, ”and said the party must compete for the support of evangelicals and other churchgoing Americans.”

Later in his presentation he added this bit of wise advice:

“Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith: the politicians who shows up at a black church around election time and claps off rhythm to the gospel choir.”

But, the Democrats have a problem. Their God talk amounts to little more than a snake-oil salesman’s pitch. They’re not going to heed Obama’s advice and they certainly don’t want to hear what evangelical Christians or Muslims or Jews or any other religious groups have to say. All they’re doing is trolling for votes. If a few strategically placed “Praise the Lords” will do the trick, they’ll shout the rafters down and roll in the aisles.

Now I do believe that Barack Obama is sincere. But I believe he’s just being used like a rented tuxedo by his party to “bring in the faithful.” “Tell ‘em we believe, Obama. Tell ‘em we believe…We believe…We believe…We believe…Praise the Lord and pass the ballot box!”

The Democrats have miles and miles to go before they’re going to convince evangelicals like me that they really want more than just my vote and a rubber stamp. As an evangelical Christian I want to have some meaningful input into the great issues of the day. I believe I’ve got something I can contribute. I’d like to work toward improving the lot of America’s poor. I’d like to see America act in a more robust manner in Darfur. I support the idea of creating political mechanisms that would make it possible for many who are now here illegally to become productive American citizens. There are a lot of things on which the Democrats and folks like me could work. Why is it, then, that when we mention faith based initiatives you shut us out? You say you want to preserve separation of Church and state. Do you know what I say to that? Bullshit! You just want to be sure that you’re brand of civil religion is the prevailing religion. Why is it that the Democratic Party’s titular leader and his administration could spend months debating the meaning of genocide while hundreds of thousands were dying in Rwanda. You say you couldn’t intervene without international approval. Do you know what I say to that? Bullshit! You’ve just lost the ability to make sound moral judgments, the kinds of judgments that should be rooted in faith.

In his presentation Obama said that the Democratic Party wants evangelicals like me to participate. That’s good. So do many of us. But we have a problem with the catch. We “must accept some ground rules for collaboration,” we’re told. Well, we’ve been down that road before. We’ve told you that we agree in the principle of separation of Church and state, but that’s not what you want from us. You want us to bring our faith into the halls of power, but you want to be sure that it’s not meaningful faith. In that regard you’ve been very successful over the years. The public square, as Father John Neuhaus has said, is just about naked. And, what’s tragic about it is that the void is being filled by politicians. Neuhaus warned this would happen, and it has:

“The truly naked square is at best a transitional phenomenon. It is a vacuum begging to be filled. When the democratically affirmed institutions that generate and transmit values are excluded, the vacuum will be filled by the agent left in control of the public square, the state. In this manner, a perverse notion of the disestablishment of religion leads to the establishment of the state as church.”

The Democrats have mixed their God talk with a Freudian slip. God isn’t lost. He’s not floating in the Tidal Basin waiting to be discovered. They banished him from the public square years ago and now they want us to believe they’ve discovered Him all over again. Really? They’re gonna’ have to do more than God talk to convince me.
In the 1972 film “Sounder” there’s a scene the Democrats really need to see. A family of depression era black sharecroppers has just left church. There, in a wagon, we see several generations of them. They’ve endured far too many years of oppression, segregation, and neglect. At one point on their journey they hear the sound of music coming from an all white church near the road. As the sound of the hymns drifts past them, the youngest of the family asks his grandfather a question. “Grandfather, what do you suppose those folks are doin’ in there?” “I don’t know child, I’ve never been in,” the grandfather answers.
“You ever tried to get in there?”
“I did once, but they wouldn’t let me.”
“Didja’ ever ask the Lord about that?”
“I did, child.”
“And what did the Lord say?”
“He said if I found a way to let Him know, cuz’ He’d been tryin’ to get in there for two hundred years Himself.”

The Democrats have a problem. They’re singing the right hymns, but they really don’t want any meaningful interaction with God. Like that old sharecropper, God would like to get past the door. He’s actually been knocking on it for a long time, but the Party won’t let Him in.

Technorati tags for this post:

Barack Obama

E J Dionne


AubreyJ said...

Hope all is well with you and yours these days, Mr. Dillon...
take care...

Douglas said...

Evangelicals was one of the few groups that voted for Bush in fewer numbers in 2004 than in 2000. I don't know enough about Barack Obama to surmise whether he means what he says or not, but the Democratic Party has been saying by their actions over the years that evangelicals are not welcome in their tent. So their saying that they found God in 2004, and $3.50, will buy them a latte at Starbucks as far as I'm concerned.

Ed Darrell said...

I look forward to your new posts. There is always food for thought, even when I disagree.

By the way, when Obama noted the guys who clap off-rhythm at the black churches? He was talking about Republicans.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...


While I have no doubt that there are a lot of off rythm Republicans, I think that Obama was talking as much to Al Gore and John Kerry and other pandering Democrats. Don't you remember how they cavorted at black churches in 2004? Kerry, especially, had absolutely no clue. He might just as well have been on one of Saturn's rings.

Now, as someone who knows the language and the customs, I can tell you that the Democrats aren't going to win over evangelicals by just "talking the language." It has to be real and the Democrats have shown little inclination in this regard.

Also, if the Democrats are really serious about religion then they need to take guys like me seriosly. To this point they've done nothing but pander. They've even drummed out left leaning evangelicals like Tony Campolo. He recently tried to talk "God talk" to a Democratic gathering and was told in no uncertain terms that they wanted nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus.

That's the problem Democrats have right now. They want the votes. They just don't want anything at all to do with Jesus.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

The collectivist Demo Party will stumble over Individual faith, spirit, and virtue, that is real.

Those who are sold-out to the Lord, easily recognize the fakers, imitators, and pluralized awkward 'religionists.'

They also recognize each other by their priorities, as articulated by a forefather in the faith; a brother who said,

"The true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being.

His duration reaches from eternity to eternity.

His presence from infinity to infinity.

He governs all things."

Sir Isaac Newton

+ + +

"Let the show begin!"